“We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip a trip takes us.”
― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
Some have compared Ian Dunlop's tale of the long road back East after escaping the nightmares of L.A. in the mid-1960s to Jack Kerouac's On the Road. I can see why but, to me, it's closer to two other novels.
I remember as a young kid reading Steinbeck's tale of wandering America as an older writer with his career behind him. Travels with Charley was the first time I got a real sense of my country, the good and the bad of it. I somewhat recognized it as my family would drive from Buffalo, New York, to northern Wisconsin every summer, and most of the road back then was not yet Interstate with its homogenized landscape.
I first heard Gram Parsons about the time I was reading Nabokov's Lolita for a class in college. I've read it at least four times since. They say that Lolita was about Nabokov's love affair with America, and I believe that's true. In my mind no one has painted a better picture of those long-gone highways than in this oft-maligned novel, with the exception of the master American painter Edward Hopper.
Also, about that time, Dennis Hopper's road movie Easy Rider came out (Gram and Ian had already appeared in Peter Fonda's movie The Trip - there's a humorous inside take on that in Breakfast). Say what you will in retrospect, Easy Rider changed us, or more accurately, showed us to ourselves. It wasn't a totally pretty picture, which is why I think it's still pretty good. Easy Rider basically added the soundtrack to an updated Travels with Charley. One came at the beginning of the sixties, the other, toward the end. Breakfast In Nudie Suits, pretty much the middle.
I didn't hear country music at home in Buffalo, and I…Continue
Posted on April 29, 2014 at 11:30am — 9 Comments
In these days of Linda Chorneys and Lana Del Rays, it's getting increasingly difficult to deal with the criteria used to nominate someone, and in which category even, whether for halls of fame or for the likes of the Grammy Awards. There are clearly ways to "play the system" if indeed there still exists a system to be played. You have to know your way around the Casino.
And when it comes to "lifetime achievement awards," which would also include induction into halls of fame, the definition of "lifetime," which had become "15 minutes of fame," seems now to be reduced to about a nanosecond.
Add the landscape-altering shifts in "categories" and their qualifying criteria, such as airplay ("spins" adding terrestrial and satellite), and unit sales (now including 0's and 1's, electrons either embedded in plastic discs or just free flowing), streaming, pirated, etc., and you are left with a real tossed salad, especially when dealing with artists whose careers have spanned these relatively recent revolutions, or even those who lived when music had only two vehicles -- live or Long Playing (LPs).
Trends in measuring popularity, success, artistic accomplishment, and any other yardsticks involved in nominating an artist for any such "lifetime" accolades become increasingly complex when dealing with those whose careers either spanned these changes that have rocked the business, or who lived their lives entirely in a statistically simpler, more easily quantifiable time.
As an example, let's examine an artist on Rolling Stone's List of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, who has been nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times, has been the subject of a slew of biographies in both books and film, and who is the subject of a global petition to induct him into the Country Music Hall of Fame with over 11,000…Continue
Posted on January 16, 2014 at 11:30am — 11 Comments
The biggest thing in Winter Haven, Florida, used to be Cypress Gardens, the result of an ambitious dream of one Dick Pope with backing from John Snively, Gram Parsons' grandfather and Florida citrus king. Long neglected, the amusement park and gardens are now run by Legoland, which has preserved some of the original Cypress Gardens and provided Winter Haven a chance to rebound. Legoland now also owns Gram's grandparents' home and uses it for special functions (photo by Bob Kealing at left). The gorgeous restoration of the Ritz Theatre is another example of Winter Haven's re-birth, a wonderful example of what communities can do working together and following Main Street's four-point approach to revitalization. The downtown streetscape of Winter Haven has undergone a remarkable facelift, also a result of such community cooperation led by Winter Haven Main Street.
The town now has a new project in the works: preserving and restoring the building that Gram's stepdad, Bob Parsons, bought for his son to play and hone his skills as a performer. The Derry Down Project seeks to restore the venue where a young Gram Parsons and his band, the folk-oriented Shilohs, were regulars, but also where others played from the historically rich well of the Florida Youth Center Circuit (term coined by Bob Kealing, author of…Continue
Posted on January 2, 2014 at 8:30pm — 2 Comments
PC, otherwise known in the Valley of California as Patrick Coleman, is still a young guy by my standards, but he's been around. Around in this case is mainly the Valley (home base is Modesto). He describes his musical background in the interview below, but let's say he's been everywhere musically. But with Jaded Starlings In a Gilded Cage he and his band come home to their roots in the Valley, which to anyone familiar with names such as Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Chris Hillman, and Lefty Frizzell (who moved to Bakersfield in the 70s to escape Nashville) is familiar territory as one of the seminal regions in the progression of true country music (with apologies to Blake Shelton).
The Valley is somewhat isolated, and such regions often form distinctive sounds. Patrick Coleman has been exposed to all forms of music, but the Valley sound can be unique, such as what Buck Owens created. So too the sounds of Patrick's new band, the Angels of Death, and the new CD.
Dwight Yoakum is not from the Valley, although as a disciple of Buck Owens you wouldn't know it (who is actually from California?). In a recent interview (Drew Millard, Noisy, http://bit.ly/YvmURu), Dwight talks about the same type of music that informs PC & the Angels of Death:
I had been a fan of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, but I also had been a fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival, which was that kind of Bay Area country-rock. “Swamp Rock,” as it’s referred to. And Beck and I even chased that a bit, in terms of the groove of “A Heart Like Mine.” I told him, I said, “Everybody always does kind of the Swamp groove variation of what John Fogerty did, but nobody ever really attacked the country parts of “Bad Moon Rising.” I said, “That’s what that song, to me, needs.” And so he had his assistant engineer, as I said, play drums on it, and we end up with this kind of great, Stones-colliding-with-Johnny-Cash…Continue
Posted on January 26, 2013 at 1:30pm — 11 Comments